I don’t know anyone who has died during a conflict; during my childhood I met some who had survived World War II and they had incredible stories to tell, and I know someone who served in the Falklands and is now a retired soldier, but no one I knew has been killed in active service.
My father was in the Parachute Regiment in the mid/late 1940’s but by the time he signed up, the Second World War was virtually over, so he didn’t see active service, and my grandfather was too young for the First World War and too old for the Second.
And regrettably my family, both maternal and paternal, have never been very good at talking to one another, so any stories of distant relatives who may have been a casualty of war will remain unheard forever more.
So each year when Remembrance Day arrives I have no one in particular to think about or remember fondly as having laid down their life on my behalf.
I observe the two minute silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, I stockpile my emotions to feel an immense measure of sadness mixed with pride; but there is something missing.
That part that connects with a life taken; a life that had just as much right to live as I do, yet a life that was snatched away from that person because they were fighting for something they believed in. I don’t have the experience of knowing what it’s like to lose someone on the battlefield; whether that place of death is the unimaginable horror of the World War I trenches or protecting civilians during the Northern Ireland troubles.
But when I see the families and friends of our fallen heroes laying a wreath, watching the comrades of their departed loved one march by or simply attending a memorial service, I am both humbled and grateful to them for having the strength to not only support their son/daughter/husband/brother/sister and so on when they decided to join the armed forces, but also for their strength in coping with the loss they have had to personally bear.
I don’t know anyone who has died during a conflict, I am the fortunate one and I am eternally grateful not only to the hero who fell but also his or her family and friends who continue to shoulder the loss on my behalf.